Real Madrid Need Subtle Restructuring, Not Upheaval, If Transfer Ban Is Delayed

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2016

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (R) is congratulated by Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema during the Spanish league football match Real Madrid CF vs Athletic Club Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on February 13, 2016. / AFP / GERARD JULIEN        (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The club's anthem over the PA system tried to drown them it out, but it couldn't. Another humiliating 90 minutes had just passed and up on the scoreboard it read Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid, prompting jeers and whistles to rain down from the stands at the Bernabeu, white handkerchiefs out in another panolada

Such fury had been heard numerous times before, but this felt different. On previous occasions, former manager Rafa Benitez had been a primary target; during last November's Clasico thrashing to Barcelona, president Florentino Perez had been, too. 

Here Perez was one again, but he wasn't the only one. There was ire for Isco, James Rodriguez, Danilo and several others. The players and the president were a collective focus, new boss Zinedine Zidane spared the angst in a manner that was telling. 

"Time to stop blaming the manager," declared Marca.

In the Spanish capital, the spectrum from frustration to exasperation to disillusionment has now been traversed. It's hunting season, and there are no protected species, Marca is going with an all-out assault. 

James? "Alarmingly poor," said the Madrid-based daily.

Danilo? "Even worse."

Isco? "Little more than a show pony."

Toni Kroos? "Becoming more and more insignificant."

Cristiano Ronaldo? "Becoming ever more irrelevant."

Sergio Ramos? "Might have been one of the best central defenders in Europe, but not any longer."

Evidently, there are those who want to see heads roll and a mass exodus to take place come the summer. Many others want a comprehensive restructure on every level. Over in Barcelona, Sport has revelled in the turmoil, drawing up Zidane and Perez's 10-man "blacklist."

Real Madrid's midfielder Isco (L) celebrates a goal with Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo during the Spanish league football match Levante UD vs Real Madrid CF at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia on March 2, 2016. / AFP / Jose
JOSE JORDAN/Getty Images

It must be conceded that anything is possible here; this is Real Madrid after all. But the likelihood is that the coming summer won't be anywhere near as volcanic as some are anticipating and, in some cases, craving.  

In late January, the transfer ban that was handed to Madrid by FIFA was suspended, opening up the possibility of the club overhauling its squad in the next transfer window before serving the ban across the two windows that will follow. 

But there are few certainties here. 

Though the ban has been suspended, it's entirely possible that Real Madrid's appeal will be heard before the summer, and in the event it's rejected, the ban's original time frame would stand.

As such, Madrid—even if it's possible that they'll have manoeuvrability come July—are not in a position in which definitive plans can be made for a major revamp; caution will be necessary amid the doubt, and thus a subtle restructure looks more realistic. 

As noted here at Bleacher Report, the task for Zidane in the closing months of the current season is to put his own stamp on Madrid. To date, the Frenchman's method has largely been the Carlo Ancelotti way, Zidane having turned to comfort and familiarity in a push for harmony. Briefly it worked, but now something else—something more—is needed. Real Madrid needs to become his, crafted in his image and to his instructions.

This is the goal between now and the end of May, and it's important it's not undermined. 

Indeed, ripping up the squad this summer if the transfer ban is delayed would essentially make the next three months of Zidane's work meaningless.

Right now, Madrid need to allow the new boss to tinker, experiment, adjust the methodology and devise an encompassing on-field idea with the current group, giving him the space to build something that can become a foundation next season rather than starting again from scratch when the new campaign arrives.

So, if such a process was allowed to unfold—and that's a big "if"—then, come the summer, what might the specific requirements be?

Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

Drafting in cover for Marcelo at left-back would be a good place to start. Though finding a player in the transfer market happy to settle for a back-up role could be difficult, elevating Alvaro Tejero—who was in Zidane's travelling party that went to Levante on Wednesday—from the Castilla squad represents a plausible option. Another central defender will also be necessary if the ageing Pepe departs. 

In midfield, meanwhile, a solution is necessary for the ongoing central-anchor conundrum. For all his qualities, Toni Kroos is unlikely to ever be the guy capable of underpinning what will always be a top-heavy team.

Kroos is who he is: a silky playmaker. Let him be one or let him go. And if Casemiro, despite his rugged defensive work, doesn't inspire confidence as an elite anchor then one who does needs to be prioritised. 

Consequently, Madrid (if Kroos were released forward) are likely approaching a situation where Kroos, Luka Modric, James and Isco will all be looking to perform a similar function. There's no logic in that; letting go of one of them would be necessary.

But that's perhaps where the specific requirements end.

Already possessing one of the best squads in Europe—and it must be remembered that the world's top-end talent is already largely concentrated at Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich—Madrid need fine tuning rather than total upheaval. 

An opportunity to build toward next season exists for the coming three months; a 10-in-10-out approach or something like it in the summer would simply leave the club in an all-to-familiar place—scrambling amid the turnover to find cohesion and balance among new faces and new ideas, while Barcelona simply rumble along. 

For three years, major upheaval has been tried every summer. At the squad level, perhaps it's time for something more subtle.